Data’s drawbacks: The best way to commute is not always the fastest

July 10, 2014

What’s the fastest way to get from point A to point B in a major American city? It’s probably a bike, according to a new joint project of the MIT Media Lab and the Social Computing Group (also at MIT). In the You Are Here data visualization, interactive maps show the fastest way to get from wherever you are in any one of 12 cities to other parts of the city. It’s a really fascinating way to visualize how cities in the US are laid out, and possibly has policy implications in helping to understand how important bicycles and associated infrastructure can and should be to the future of urban transportation.

Chicken is about to get more expensive

July 9, 2014

American chickens are having some trouble reproducing. A key breed of chickens commonly raised for industrial poultry production has a genetic defect that causes low fertility in birds that are overfed, which reduces the supply available and pushes up prices, Reuters reports.

Did start-ups hold back the recovery?

July 8, 2014

When you say the word start-up, many people think of the wild proliferation of tech companies in Silicon Valley: Stanford grads sitting in a basement with their friends being offered obscene amounts of money for a mobile app that simply sends a one-word message to a user’s contacts. But economically speaking, a startup is any business that’s less than five years old and has fewer than 20 employees. And, tech bubble or not, start-ups in general have not done so well in the wake of the Great Recession.

Today’s jobs report in charts

July 3, 2014

Non-farm payrolls for June were released Thursday, and by most accounts this was a great month for job growth. The economy added 288,000 jobs, way more than the 215,000 that were expected. Reuters has a full live blog of the commentary that came out after the report. Here are some of the best charts from the blog:

Eurozone unemployment is still stagnant

July 2, 2014

Eurozone employment is stuck in a bad place. Numbers out yesterday show the unemployment rate hovering at 11.6 percent for a second consecutive month. While at least it isn’t rising, the rate needs to drop a lot further for Europe to truly get back on track from the 2008 financial crisis. Nineteen million people remain out of work across the eurozone, Reuters reports, and the unemployment rates in Spain and Greece both remain above 25 percent.

Ebola crisis spreads

June 30, 2014

West Africa is experiencing the worst ever outbreak of Ebola, the deadly virus that can kill up to 90 percent of those who contract it. Since this outbreak was first documented in February in Guinea, 635 people have been infected and nearly 400 have died, according to Reuters. So far, cases have been contained to Guinea, Sierra Leone, and Liberia, but a World Health Organization report out this week warned that neighboring nations should be prepared for outbreaks there as well.

Wage growth: Still stagnant

June 27, 2014

Reuters has a story out this week delving into Fed chair Janet Yellen’s views about employment. Yellen wants to see more wage growth before she really believes the employment situation is improving, as “research from the Fed’s staff and her own past academic work both suggest there may be more slack in the economy than inflation hawks believe,” according to the Reuters piece.

Consumer spending inches up in May

June 26, 2014

Consumer spending increased 0.2 percent in May, less than the 0.4 percent expected, but up from completely flat numbers in April. Reuters reports the weak numbers are likely because of a decrease in health care spending.

Here’s why it’s so hard to land a job

June 25, 2014

Six years into the recovery, the American jobs situation is still in a rut. The relationship between how many people are looking for a job (the unemployment rate) and how many jobs are available (the jobs opening rate) has historically been predictable. Plotting it out in chart form gives you what is known as the Beveridge Curve, named after the British economist William Beveridge. The idea is that as the number of workers who are looking for a job rises — which to employers means the pool of talent for them to hire from gets bigger — the available jobs get filled and the opening rate goes down.

Housing on the rebound

June 23, 2014

Did someone say housing recovery? Existing home sales numbers for May were released this morning, handily beating economists’ expectations. Existing homes are now being sold at an annual rate 4.89 million units, up 4.9 percent month-over-month, Reuters reports. Forecasts had put the growth rate at only 2.2 percent. The number of properties on the market is also up, suggesting that the housing market is finally pulling out of its late 2013 slump.